tv [untitled] February 13, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EST
it's very important that we address the needs of all the win. he said he would lead a city not for the 99% but for the 1200%. well yes 100% of the american people. didn't his speech reminden? you could see it in your eyes to reegg to "a," make it in america, build our infrastructure, have community leadership and rebuilding america and having a new politics, as i say, free of the special interest.
only then can we have the fairness in our society that our founders foresaw and that was part of their vision. so as we rebuild america, revitalize our business, reinvigorate our work force, restore our prosperity, we must do that right now and for a long time. you know, this weekend, you, mayors, i know understand the urgency of this moment. it's a very important critical time that we could tip one way or another. and this weekends, as we marked martin luther king day, martin luther king jr. day, imagine this beautiful monument. this beautiful monument on the national mall where lincoln and jefferson and roosevelt, all those in washington, martin luther king jr., pretty thrilling that he is there as a giant of america. and remember the speech that he
made. the "i had a dream" speech. but many of us loved the part when he talked about the fierce urgency of now. it's become very popular to talk about that. but it's very urgent right now. to be sensitive to it. but follow those words about the fierce urgency of now is what i love. this powerful statement. he said, this is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. the same could be true of the same challenges we face today. arianna talked to you about the internet and increase communication. we have expanded opportunity through science and technology and through awareness that technology provides for us to make a very big difference for our children for their future, for our country. we owe our men and women in
uniform who are coming home now from iraq and hopefully soon from afghanistan. we owe them a future worthy of their sacrifice. we have the means at our disposal. we have the idealism. we have the conference of mayors has its -- it has its vision. it has its knowledge and judgment about these subjects. it has a strategic plan. and you have a connection to the american people that is unee valued in politics. as you wrote when we gathered here five years ago, we need strong cities, strong families for a strong america. that still rings true today. and there is no time to waste. right, mr. mayor? no time to waste. we must act now to improve the state of our cities and in doing so to strengthen the state of our nation, health and well-being of our children, and to re-ignite the american dream.
thank you, mayors, for your leadership for our cities, for our families and for our nation's future. it's an honor to be with you to bring greetings from the congress of the united states to this very important meeting. thank y'all. thank you, mayor. good to see you. how you been? >> we're going to take a picture over here. >> that's a better picture. am i right?
>> yeah. >> i'm going to take one. and then one without it. there we go. thank you. they love you. i was saying to the democratic leader that when i said this conference loves her, that standing ovation has a lot to do with the fact that year in and year out, nancy pelosi is there for our cities. let's give her a big hand again. now officials from the agriculture and energy departments discuss local food sustainability and renewable energy. among the speakers, agriculture secretary tom vilsack and new jersey representative frank
pallone. this is an hour, ten minutes. >> there we go. sorry about that. i just want to tell you that i think we're very, very honored today to have the secretary of agriculture. i was speaking to him a few moments ago, and he was mayor for five years of pleasant, iowa, i believe it was -- mount pleasant, iowa. i think once you're mayor, you're always a mayor. you know, you kind of go around cities and you're looking at streets and you're looking at stores and residential neighborhoods and all that. but so he is now secretary of agriculture. and they gave me a little bit of literature. i just want to read one thing. i want to turn it over to him so he can make remarks. and then i want this to be a dialogue to where we have a little bit of a question and answer and talk to him about some of the things that we're doing.
but one thing in particular is that he entered into a partnership with the department of energy and the u.s. navy to invest up to $510 million during the next three years to produce advanced drop in aviation marine b biofuels, to power the military and commercial transportation. so looking at our resources and department of agriculture, in particular, and saying how can we maximize it on a long-term basis, you know, doing cost benefit analyses that integrate all the different elements like what jennifer was talking about earlier, it's just so sound and so, so important and especially a time like this when we're talking about creating jobs, we're talking about sound investments, we're talking about helping our country on sustainability issues and oil independence and all. and so with that, you know, please let's give him a warm welcome and start thinking about
questions and all because i understand from his staff that you want to talk about 10, 15 minutes or so. then we're going to have about ten minutes for questions and answers. >> very good. >> so secretary vilsack, please. >> mayor, thanks very much. just a friendly suggestion on the corn. make sure that it's sweet corn and not field corn. >> you mean your mayor would short change you? >> well, he might sends you the corn that you could feed to your livestock, not to your folks. well, i appreciate the opportunity to speak to this group. i obviously have a fondness for those who are running cities big and small. they have a very difficult job at a very difficult time. and i know that there are tremendous demands on all of your budgets. let me just really summarize the president's philosophy about
where we go in terms of the economy and the role that usda and energy and biofuel production plays in that equation. simply stated, the president believes that we obviously need to be a federal government that will, over time, spend less money. that is fairly clear. we've got to get our fiscal house in order. but as we spend, we need to invest wisely. and we need to invest in the opportunity to create an economy that gets back in the business of making and creating and innovating again which americans have done so well for so long. the reference to thomas edison is the kind of innovative history we have in the united states. we need to get back into that business because when we do, we then create and innovate products and services the rest of the world wants and needs and we then get back in the business of exporting and take our trade deficit and turn it into a surpl surplus. that's what we've done in agriculture. today we have a record amount of
ag exports. we exported $137 billion of ag product to the rest of the world. it generates, for every billion dollars of sales, 8400 jobs, many of which in the cities represented here. and it gives us a trade surplus in agriculture on one of the principal parts of our economy that actually has a trade surplus. we want to continue that. and so we have made a commitment at usda to a new energy future. and the important role that renewable energy and biomass and a bio-based economy will play in creating that new economy. the first thing we did was to set up virtual research centers in every region of the country. linking our universities, our agricultural research service offices to focus on creating new ways to produce biofuel and bioenergy. new feedstocks, moving away from a reliance on corn-based ethanol to expand significantly to include woody biomass, switch
grass, municipal waste, a wide variety of opportunities to produce can help create new fuels and new energy. these research centers have allowed us to identify opportunities where we are now providing resources to farmers around the country to help produce some of these alternative feed stocks. we have roughly 50,000 acres enrolled in this program today. a maximum of 250,000 acres. we're growing things like miscanthus that can be converted into new fuels. we are also helping a love smaller producers of these advanced biofuels to get to the next stage, to get to commercial-sized operations. and we recent ly want to make sure that this is representative -- an industry that's representative of all
aspects of america. the mayor was kind enough to talk about the unique partnership we have with the navy. navy has indicated that over time their desire is to commit to 50% of their needs met by biofuel. they are sbt in energy. so they have made a serious commitme commitment. they've entered into an agreement. this is actually a fuel that you literally drop into the tank and this is a unique partnership. it pulls in roughly $510 million. these resources will be used to
help reconstruction. then the navy has committed in advance to essentially purchasing the supply which will make it easier for the refineries to gain investors and commercial financing to build the biorefineries. and then the usda will work with the producers to basically buy down the cost of the feed stock so that the price pricing will be competitive with other fuels so that the navy would not not be paying more than it otherwise would pay. as these refineries expand beyond the navy's needs, commercial aviation is also very interested in this. we had a meeting in chicago this week, earlier this week with representatives, united and honeywell. they are very interested. they, too, are interesting .
one, the security aspect. of not being reliant on a foreign source of energy. so it's in their best long-term interest to see this industry take hold. these biorefineries can be located everywhere. so as cities are looking at economic opportunity, as they're looking for their region that they are sort of the center of, they ought to give some consideration to working with their economic development areas to see whether or not it's feasible to be one of the locations of these three, four or five biorefineries we hope to be able to finance. in addition, we are also heavily engaged in promoting the bio-based economy. not only fuel and energy can be produced from these feed stocks but chemicals, polymers and
fibers can be produced. something that can be renewed, something that can be grown every year. something that can -- that will be better for the environment and, again, reduce our reliance on foreign oil. we've gone from importing 60% of oil in the united states to 52% in the last three years. the president has challenged us to reduce our imports by one-third. that would be roughly 18%. that 18% is about equivalent to what we currently import from the middle east. and i think i would probably not get much disagreement around this table that it would be far better for us to create jobs here in america than it is necessarily to create opportunities someplace else. particularly in an area of the world that is not particularly stable right now. in addition to all of this, usda is also responsible for labeling bio-based products for purchase by the federal government. i would encourage all of to you look at our website and our biopreferred program to see whether or not there are
opportunities within our cities in terms of the supplies and items that you purchase on an ongoing basis to see whether you might be able to support american agriculture or the agriculture in your district and in your area that is providing the feed stock, if you will, for these new bio-based products. we are also engaged in rural communities in retrofitting homes and buildings to make them more energy efficient, using some of the resources that we have through our programs. we are very much involved in financing windmills and solar and renewable energy opportunities in rural areas through our reap program. we had over 22,000 projects usda has funded over the last three years in this arena. the last point, we are working with the department of energy, the interior department to try and see if we can streamline the process by which transmission lines, at least those relating to transmission lines over public lands, can be permitted more quickly. we recognize and appreciate that
you can produce all this renewable energy, but if you can't get it to the cities that need it because the transmission system is not equipped, then it does very little good to generate the power. so we're very much involved in this. we have identified roughly eight primary corridors that we think we can streamline and encourage a speedier process for approvals of these transmission lines. key areas that will link renewable energy production to the users and consumers of renewable energy. so usda is engaged in all of this. you may not have understood or appreciated that when you got into this room. the usda is a department that we like to say is an every day, every way usda. there virtually is no issue you can talk about today that we don't have some connection or involvement in. certainly we are very heavily invested in this new opportunity, this new american biobased economy that can be created with the assistance of our farmers, ranchers and producers. so mayor, i think that's a very
quick summary of some of the things that we're doing. that leaves, i think, sufficient time for questions. >> it is a fantastic summary. and i think one that brings a lot of thoughts to our mind's eye. i have a few questions, but i'd maybe like to go around the room a little bit and see what some of the questions are that my fellow mayors may have. let me jump in on one, and then maybe it will stimulate more discussion. you talked earlier about that there are eight corridors that you're trying to focus in on where we can add more capacity. would it be possible to get those eight corridors -- you know, put maybe a link on our website for the u.s. conference of mayors and share it with all our mayors? because there might be some that, hey, i'm in that corridor. you know, what do i do? et cetera, et cetera. any thoughts on that, mr. secretary? >> i this i that information is available. i will double check and make sure that it's available through
our website, but i'm pretty sure it is at usda.gov. if you click on to the utility service line, i'm sure we'll be able to link you up with a map that shows where these corridors whe are. i will tell you quite a number of them are in the western part of the united states because obviously there's a lot of public lands, forested lands. and in the past, you know, the attitude was, well, we try to avoid using public land for this purpose. i think we've changed that attitude. we understand and esche proo the private sector feels the onus it was placed too much on them. and we also recognize that getting it through the process, through the public lands has sometimes been a time-consuming and cumbersome process. so we've looked at ways in which we can identify primary agencies and giving them the responsibility to shepherd this process through, developing time lines and reducing the amount of time. what cities could do is work
with your respective states to make sure that the regulatory processes and systems in your states are also as streamlined as possible and that there's coordination. many of these transmission lines obviously go from one state to another. if each state has a slightly different way of approaching transmission approvals, it complicates it and slows the process down. so to the degree we can streamline, we have some consistency in what factors we look at it, it will make it easier to get these transmission lines built. >> city of denton, texas. we're the northern bastion of civilization until you get to oklahoma. we have a lot of agricultural areas around, but we're the northern part of the metroplex. my question is, we also have our own public utility, denton municipal electric, and we have
40% of our electricity now for our city of 125,000-plus and two universities. 40% of all our energy comes from wind now. we partnered up with nextair energy, developed a wind farm where we have 72 generating windmills just north of the city. my question is, can the department of -- you mentioned that usda has, for agricultural areas, you work with folks for wind-generated power. would that work in a partnership-type arrangement with a municipality where we might partner with agricultural areas to develop an additional wind capacity we could sell to them? because we could do that. i've never thought of it. we just entered into this realm two years ago. that's my question. >> congress is basically restricted the geographic areas in which usda can invest
resources to ensure that its primary focus is on rural areas. having said that, we have a rural utility service portfolio of our operation that basically provides low-cost financing for the construction of wind farms and electric generation. if those wind farms and those turbines are located in rural areas, there's no reason why we couldn't have the kind of partnership that you're talking about. it isn't so much where the energy is used, it's where the energy is generated is where it is. i'd encourage you to look online under the rural utility service. that will give you information about the programs that are available. this is a little far afield from energy, but one of the things we're also trying to do is to connect these rural communities with broadband and the rural utility services also is engaged
in and involved in providing access for distance learning for medicine and for connecting communities. there's a lot of activity that goes on through usda that can support regional economic development. and one of the things i would encourage, we have roughly 50 regions that have self-identified themselves. this can be multiple counties, put peand certainly a large cit like yours would benefit from a strategy that encourages the surrounding communities to contribute to a regional economic development strategy. >> i'm going to call on mayor fox next, but it's important that we use the microphones because i understand we're on c-span. it's going to be interesting as others listen to this discussion, and therefore the microphones are very important. mayor fox? >> yes.
thank you, mr. chair. and also thank you, secretary vilsack. in my community, one of the things that is becoming more of a topic is the concept of local food and partly as a sustainability initiative. the idea that when you have food that is moving for thousands of miles to get to the plate, it has an impact on the environment and on energy consumption. i'm wondering whether there are initiatives through usda to promote local food and to help connect urban areas to some of the food sources that are closer. >> mayor, there are a couple of things i would say in response to that. first, we have a program referred to as know your farmer, know your food. it's not actually a program. it's sort of an ovinfrastructur that allows cold storage,
warehousing, mobile storage units and the like to help critical mass of locally produced food so that can do exactly what you've suggested. we've increased to farmers' markets because that's another opportunity. we now have over 7,200 farmers' markets. we've seen an increase as well in winter of farmers' markets. and that's been a result of our -- a concerted effort to promote the financing and assisting farmers' markets even in urban centers. so know your farmer. know your food. if you go to our website, there's a little icon directly connected to that initiative. the third thing i would say it we are also very cognizant of the food desert issue, which is prevalent in many major urban centers and is also very prevalent, unfortunately, and tragically in rural areas as well. and so we have been working with the treasury department and
others to put together a package of financing through a healthy financing initiative where we use our services. there are a number of grocery chains expressing a real interest in using this opportunity. i would encourage all of the mayors who might have a food desert in their city to consider reaching out to whatever the predominant grocery store chain is in your community and suggest to them that they might consider, in lieu of a check, which is what oftentimes you get from corporate foundations, that they consider the operation of a grocery store at no profit. that that would be a contribution they could make to a community by establishing a small right-sized grocery store that would provide fruits and vegetables to folks and provide a convenient location for folks.
and if they operated at no profit, at a break-even, then they might have an opportunity to lower it, they would be in a position to access that grocery store. i would also say that, this is a little far afield from your question, but we've also made a concerted effort to reach out to schools to encourage them as we improve the school lunch and school breakfast program from a nutritional within a 50-mile radius and again using our economic development tools to build the food hub that would allow enough of that aggregation. there are quite a number of initiatives in o initiatives. hhs also has information as well. >> we have time for two
questions. if you'd like to introduce yourself, please, and say a little something about your city. >> mayor davis from the city of va lal hoe. thank you. from vallejo, california. you guys probably have heard that name. we are now out of bankruptcy. we have passed successfully. we have just hired a new city manager that we stole from concord, california. we have passed a tax measure to help us boost our economy. and we're moving ahead. we're in great shape, have our contracts in order, and the city is getting ready to move. good to be here. >> docongratulations. from pleasanton, please. >> thank you. so i hear about your name came
up at the dinner table just last week. i hear all this wonderful stuff. we talk about crumbling infrastructure in this country, informal? you mentioned communications. roads and bridges. what do you think the real opportuni opportunities for a true infrastructure bank in this country, to fund these types of much needed quite frankly enough opportunity to leave mayor to work. >> mayor, that's a good question. to a sent apparently concerts effort at usda to provide. we've got a